Inaugural conference of the Institute for Human Development, Nairobi

25 Feb
Photo • Rosemary Quipp

Photo • Rosemary Quipp

Earlier this month I visited Nairobi to attend the launch of the Institute for Human Development, a new centre of excellence that will build capacity and drive innovation in research and higher education on human development. Its aim is to advance the quality of individual lives and contribute to the building of successful pluralistic societies, with a particular focus on children, families, and communities within resource-poor regions of the world.

The Institute is a part of the Aga Khan University and brings together researchers, teachers, practitioners and students from across the university and the Aga Khan Development Network, linking with partners in other parts of the world, such as the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, part of the University of Toronto. Continue reading

Calling for a two generation approach to child development

13 Feb

Stepping up Early Childhood Development - World BankOver the years there has been a long standing recognition that child development is influenced by conditions facing families and in turn families are influenced by the community around them. These concepts have recently received renewed attention through a new report released by the World Bank, Stepping Up Early Childhood Development: Investing in Young Children for High Returns (Denboba et al, 2014). The document provides a simple guide for policymakers and practitioners about how to invest in young children and families.

Ascend at Aspen Institute defines two generation approaches as those that “focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both vulnerable parents and children together”. The new report from the World Bank highlights 25 interventions, grouped into five packages (pregnancy, birth, child health, preschool and family support). It reflects a two generation approach by including interventions directly focused on young children as well as a continuum of interventions that support families throughout the early childhood years from conception to 6 years.
Continue reading

Learnings from the “Small Children, Big Cities” conference

2 Feb

Conference 'Small Children, Big Cities' in IndiaRapidly urbanizing India is undergoing changes on many fronts. India has a new government. There are technological changes, policy shifts and changes in the way people think. The democratic structure of this country allows us to be more vocal about our rights and ensure that they are being upheld. But there are many who are not even aware of their fundamental rights. I find myself wondering why they have been neglected for so long when they form the bulk of the population.

When these questions come up, we find NGOs like the “Humara Bachpan Campaign”, a national campaign which aims at a safe and healthy environment for children living in urban poverty, empowering those that truly have the potential to rise – the children of this country.

Read the blog post written by Anouksha Gupta on the Humara Bachpan website.

Incredible India!

23 Dec

IMG_0814In my role as editor of Early Childhood Matters, I was privileged to launch the latest edition, on “Small children, big cities”, at a conference in Delhi with the same theme. This was my first trip to India, and the relevance of the theme was very clear from when I first arrived in the city – there were construction projects everywhere, while roadsides are adorned with romantic adverts for new housing aimed at India’s fast emerging middle class.

Although wealth is growing in India, poverty remains widespread. Following the Delhi conference, we flew on to Hyderabad to visit project partners whose work had featured in a previous edition of Early Childhood Matters. With our support, Aide et Action runs early childhood centres for children of migrant construction workers, who often slip through the nets of official systems. It was clear that the parents of these children face tough working and living conditions and need all the support they can get. Continue reading

Why we need to talk to babies more

18 Nov

Why we need to talk to babies more
The baby diaper market — led by Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark — is projected to reach USD 52.2 billion by 2017. As the market grows, so does the investment in technology. In a recent article about the industry, Lauren Coleman Lochner paints a portrait of scientists in lab coats using saline solution to identify ‘pee-points’ on the quest for a perfect diaper. No leaks, no rash. As fathers, we appreciate this commitment to excellence, but we also have a simple, inexpensive, low-tech request to the CEOs of the leading diaper producers — help us remember to talk to our babies.

Read Michael Feigelson & Marcos Nisti’s blog on World Economic Forum.

Renske Keizer, first appointed Professor on Fatherhood

3 Nov
Renske Keizer, Professor on Fatherhood

Renske Keizer, Professor on Fatherhood

Renske Keizer started on 1 September in her new role of Professor on Fatherhood at the University of Amsterdam. She will conduct research on the influence of father involvement on developmental outcomes of children, teach courses on fatherhood and supervise PhD students on this topic. With a background in family sociology and demography, and by adding additional insights from the pedagogical and economic literature, she will provide a unique perspective on father involvement, specifically in the Netherlands.

Why is the Bernard van Leer Foundation supporting the specially appointed Professor on Fatherhood in the Netherlands? Continue reading

Cinekid: the ‘biggest digital playground’

23 Oct
Kids enjoying installation MurMur at the Cinekid MediaLab

Kids enjoying installation MurMur at the Cinekid MediaLab

Last week the 28th edition of the annual Cinekid Festival took place in Amsterdam and several other locations in the Netherlands. The Bernard van Leer Foundation sponsored this movie, television and new media festival for kids, also known as the ‘biggest digital playground’. And this year we made sure parents of the youngest kids knew exactly how to get the most out of their visit…

For more than 25 years, Cinekid has been striving to promote the production of high-quality media for children, to ensure that special media productions are accessible to them and to involve the young target audience actively and creatively in media. One of the main reasons why the Bernard van Leer Foundation is funding Cinekid is to create demand for better quality early learning through new media, which we believe is an underemphasized field of attention. Media knowledge for young kids nurtures “21st century workforce skills” such as exploration, trial and failure, logical thinking, problem solving and creativity, which are increasingly important as the nature of the world, and the workplace, changes at an accelerating rate. Continue reading

A visit to Lingeka, Tanzania

20 Oct
Mother from the farmer’s/parenting group

Mother from the farmers’/parenting group

I am just back from a visit to Lingeka, in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania. I was there at the invitation of ICS to visit communities who have been implementing their Skilful Parenting programme.

ICS have an unusual approach, in which the entry point and initial focus of their parenting work in communities is agribusiness and improving farming practices. They provide training to farmers on agricultural techniques, offer the means to purchase improved quality fertiliser and seed, and provide access to a fairer market for selling their produce. This enables farmers to better provide for their own food and increase their income. Continue reading

Leverage: Just Another Fancy Word?

10 Oct

Leverage_just another fancy word
The president of a foundation in Europe recently shared with me a conversation she had about “strategic philanthropy” where she questioned whether the concept was anything more than the affirmation of common sense dressed in fancy words. The same may turn out to be the case for the notion of “leverage”— a term that I hear increasingly to describe how foundations can achieve the greatest social change. Be that as it may, if we can find ways to increase the impact of philanthropic resources, it merits discussion.

Read Michael Feigelson’s blog on Stanford Social Innovation Review.

A Dutch view on the CATS Conference in Caux, Switzerland

19 Aug

CATS conference, CauxWe are travelling in a small train on the final part of our journey from Amsterdam to Switzerland. Our suitcases are packed in a carriage at the front. We go higher and higher. Once in a while there is a descent, because of a valley. The sights are becoming more beautiful by the minute. There is fog around the mountains and if you look closely you can see the snow on the top of them. And then suddenly, when we are almost at the top, there it is: the beautiful castle. Here we are, an eleven-strong group of ladies in a beautiful location with a beautiful goal: to actively participate and brainstorm at the CATS conference. But what is CATS exactly?

Well, it is not about sweet and cuddly little cats, as you may think. No, this is serious business. CATS stands for Children as Actors for Transforming Society. In other words: children will think of ways in which society can work better for them. This is the second time this conference has been organised, with children from all over the world coming to the castle to share their experiences and ideas. Continue reading


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